seedlings growing in repurposed tin cans, egg carton, and toilet roll tubes

Plenty of items routinely trashed or recycled function quite well when re-assigned to other tasks. And repurposing them can be delightfully simple: no tools, long list of supplies, or elaborate instructions required.

We rounded up several repurposing hacks from around the web so you can see how little effort is required to give your everyday discards a new purpose. Repurposing is deliciously satisfying; see for yourself.

Laundry Detergent Jugs

With handles and pour spouts, they’re perfectly poised to assist in watering plants. The preliminary requirement is rinsing them well. Ideally, rinse out soap residue directly into a wash load. Rinse and repeat.

Optional extra effort: Remove the label for a sleeker style.

Flip-Top Dental Floss Empties

Pull out the inner workings and use them for organizing and storing petite items like earrings, headphones, and buttons.

Optional extra effort: Make labels for them.

Bag Closures

Recruit the sturdy square plastic tabs that protected your fresh loaf for a variety of tasks, including:

  • Scrape away stuck-on debris from tables, floors, and other surfaces.
  • Adhere it to a desk, nightstand, or table where you recharge your phone. Use it to hold onto your cord when you unplug your device.
  • Fix a broken flip-flop. Read Instructables for directions.


  • Paper bags are perfect for DIY wrapping paper. Appreciate the rustic effect. Optional extra effort: enhance with a hand-drawn design, stickers, or other embellishments.
  • Use plastic bags, especially sturdy vegetable bags with air holes, as receptacles for stray plastic from food packaging. If secure, stray pieces of plastic are less likely to fly away from the trash and float off as litter.
  • Portable lunch totes, with inspiration and a few laughs from You Betcha’s video.
Used bag with plastic waste in it.
Contain your stray plastic in a used plastic bag to reduce the likelihood of litter. Image: Patti Roth

Jelly Jars, Mustard Jars, etc.

Use jars of all sizes to store leftovers, shake your homemade salad dressing, or organize paper clips, pencils, and other office supplies. To make them more appealing for reuse, learn how to remove labels and odors from your jars.

Food Scraps

Follow author Katie Elzer-Peters’ advice and repurpose seeds, pits, and other produce pieces into fresh food. Check out her book, No-Waste Kitchen Gardening, for all the tips you need to grow free produce from food waste.

Cardboard Tubes

Before you pop them in the recycling, consider these repurposing hacks for cardboard tubes from paper towels, TP, and wrapping paper.

Cardboard roll electric cable organizer
Cardboard roll electric cable organizer. Image: Weekend Content


Your old toothbrushes make handy scrubbers for dirty faucets, grout lines, jewelry, and other small items.

Unwanted Pans and Dishes

Repurpose unwanted dented, chipped, scratched, or mismatched pans and dishes as DIY birdbaths. The birds will thank you and you get to enjoy the nature show.


Squirt dabs of oil paints or acrylics directly into jar lids for a makeshift paint palette. Optional extra effort: Attach them to cardboard for a DIY palette as shown on Play Teach Repeat.

Protect your hot drink from dust and then use the lid as a coaster – just one of the many unusual uses for plastic lids from Instructables.

Credit Cards, Gift Cards, Rewards Cards

They may be expired, but your plastic credit, gift, and rewards cards can still work for you. Use the rigid edges to scrape stubborn residue from floors, walls, and other surfaces or to scrape ice from frosty windshields.

Optional extra effort: Turn them into DIY guitar picks. For a traditional rounded triangle shape, trace another pick on the plastic and snip with your scissors. Or purchase a pick punching tool, such as Pick-a-Palooza‘s.

Insulated Food Delivery Sacks

After they’ve served their purpose, those silver plastic insulated food delivery bags still have a lot of life left in them. Repurposing ideas include:

  • Padded storage: Store or pack up dishes and other items that need extra protection. You can also slice into sheets and layer between plates.
  • DIY rain shield: Stow a few empties in your vehicle. If you forget your umbrella, use one as a rain shield for yourself, or your laptop.
  • Portable seat padding: Makes a lightweight portable seat for picnics, sports events, or other activities when you want to protect your tush.
  • Gift bag: Simply pop in a present. The sparkly silver exterior looks fancy and the padding helps protect the contents.
  • Sun shield for your vehicle, suggests representatives of UpCycle Creative Reuse Center in Virginia.
  • Lunch bag: Designed to protect your food delivery, they can help keep your lunch fresh.

Repurposing is handy, economical, and reduces waste. With repurposing hacks like these, you can extend the life of your everyday discards, reduce your purchases, and send less trash to the landfill.

By Patti Roth

Patti began her writing career as a staff writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Still based in Florida, Patti serves as editor for Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap. She regularly writes about environmental, home improvement, education, recycling, art, architecture, wildlife, travel and pet topics.